Meadville Tribune

Local News

October 17, 2013

Meadville may be getting into costly endeavor to clean up blighted properties

MEADVILLE — “I drive around the city and see houses that have been boarded for all my natural life,” Mayor Christopher Soff said. “That cannot be allowed to continue.”

Blight was on the agenda for Meadville City Council’s monthly meeting Wednesday night, but the 16 residences singled out for initial council attention by a six-member group of city officials are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Asked how many properties warranted some sort of attention on the part of council, “There are a lot — maybe 200,” replied Gary Alizzeo, the city’s attorney. “They’re not all in this bad shape, but 50 would fall under the ‘blight’ definition.”

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “a structure is blighted when it exhibits objectively determinable signs of deterioration sufficient to constitute a threat to human health, safety and public welfare.” At the direction of council, the list was developed using the HUD definition of blight.

As to what comes next, “Each case is unique,” Alizzeo said. “This is going to cost money — council will have to allocate funds.”

“There will be substantial legal research,” City Manager Joe Chriest agreed, noting that pursuing a serious blight-reduction program will be both time-consuming and costly.

Although it was uncertain whether all the properties highlighted Wednesday should be included or if perhaps five suitable candidates should be selected for the preliminary go-around, council gave the go-ahead to Assistant City Manager Andy Walker to start developing a strategy for chipping away at the list and instructed him to bring the plan to council for further consideration.

Funding for the program, however, remains uncertain.

“I don’t know where the money will come from,” Soff told the Tribune after the meeting. “Part of what they will come to us with next will be an estimate of the cost.” Soff added that if Chriest and Finance Director Tim Groves haven’t included funding in the city’s 2014 budget when the first draft is presented in November, council might direct the budget to be amended to include blight reduction.

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